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WRITTEN BY MR ROWE,
Tseems to be a kind of respect due to the memo
ry of excellent men, especially of those whom their wit and learning have made famous, to deliver some account of themselves, as well as their works, to posterity. For this reason, how fond do we see some people of discovering any little perfonal story of the great men of antiquity! their families, the common incidents of their lives, and even their fhape, make, and features, have been the subject of critical inquiries. How trifling foever this curiclity may seem to be, it is certainly very natural; and we are hardly satisfied with an account of any remarkable perfớn, till we have heard him described even to the very clothes he wears. As for what relates to men of letters, the knowledge of an author may sometimes conduce to the better understanding his book; and though the works of Mr Shakefpeare may feem to many not to want a
comment, yet I fancy fome little account of thi man himself may not be thought improper to go along with them.
He was the son of Mr John Shakespeare, and was born at Stratford upon Avon, in Warwickfhire, in April 1564. His family, as appears by the register and publick writings relating to that town, were of good figure and fashion there, and are mentioned as gentlemen. His father, who was a considerable dealer in wool, had fo large a family, ten children in all, that though he was his eldest son, he could give him no better education than his own cmployment. He had bred him, it is truc, for some time, at a free school, where, it is probable, he acquired what Latin he was mal ter of: but the narrowness of his circumstances, and the want of his aslistance at home, forced his father to withdraw him from thence, and unhappily prevented his further proficiency in that language. It is without controversy, that in his works we scarce find any traces of any thing that looks like an imitation of the ancients. The delicacy of his taite, and the natural bent of his own great genius (equal, if not fuperior, to some of the best of iheis), would certainly have led him to read and study them with so much pleasure, that some of their fine images would naturally have infinuated themselves into, and been mixed with, his own writings; fo that his not copying at least fomething from them may be an argument of his never having read them. Whether his ignorance of the ancients were a disadvantage to him or no, may admit of a dispute : for though the knowledge of them might have made him more correct,
vét it is not improbable but that the regularity and deference for them, which would have attended that correctness, might have restrained some of that fire, impetuofity, and even beautiful extravagance, which we admire in Shakespeare: and I believe we are better pleased with those thoughts, altogether new and uncommon, which his own imagination supplied him so abundantly with, than if he had giveri us the most beautiful passages out of the Greek and Latin poets, and that in the molt agreeable manner that it was possible for a maiter of the English language to deliver them.
Upon his leaving school, he seems to have given entirely into that way of living which his father proposed to him; and, in order to settle in the world after a family manner, he thought fit to marry while he was yet very young. His wife was the daughter of one Hathaway, said to have been a substantial yeoman in the neighbourhood of Stratford. In this kind of settlement he conticued for some time, till an extravagance, that he was guilty of, forced him both out of his country,. and that way of living which he had taken up; and though it seemed at first to be a blemish upon his good manners, and a misfortune to him, yet it afterwards happily proved the occasion of exerting one of the greatest geniuses that ever was known in dramatic poetry. He had, by a misfortune common enough to young fellows, fallen into ill company; and, amongst them, some that made a frequent practice of deer-stealing engaged him more than once in robbing a park that belonged to Sir Thomas Lucy, of Cherlecot, near Stratford. For this he was profecuted by that gentleman, as he